Harshacharita (socio-cultural Study)

by Mrs. Nandita Sarmah | 2014 | 67,792 words

This page relates ‘Table: Some of the medicinal plants’ of the English study on the Harshacharita: A Sanskrit (poetical work) which can be studied as a Historical book of Indian society during the 7th century. It was originally written by Banabhatta who based his Harsacarita on the life of the Gupta emperor Harshavardhana. This study researches the religion, philosophy, flora and fauna and society of ancient India as reflected in the Harsha-Charita.

  Sanskrit name Botanical name English name Assamese name
A Āmalakī, Dhātrī Emblica eficinalis Gaertn Embilica myrobalan Amalakhi
B Aśoka, Karṇapūraka Saraca asoca (Roxb.) Ashoka Asoka
C Candana, Malayaja Santalum album L. Sandal wood Chandan
D Tāmbūla, Pūga Areea Catechu Linn. Betel nut Tamol
E Palāśa Butea monsperma (Linn) Kuntze Flame of the forest Palash
F Kuśa, Vṛṣī Poa cynosuroides Grass of lucky augury kushavan
G Dūrvā, Bāruṇī, Sahasravīrya Cynodon dactylon Pers., Panicum dactylon Dog grass Duvari
H Bilva, Śrīphala, Sadāphala Aegle marmelos Corr. Wood/golden Apple Bael
I Agastya, Munidruma Sesbania grandiflora Pers Larga flowered Agati Bakphul
J Agaru Aquilaria agalocha Roxb. Bark, Heart Woo Sacigach
K karpūra Cinnamonum camphora Camphor powder Karpur


(a) Āmalakī, Dhātrī, Emblica officinalis Gaertn, embilica myrobalan, amalakhi

It is a fruit of much medicinal importance. According to Vāmanapurāṇa[1] one can survive only drinking the juice of the fruit āmalaka. It was used to treat various types of diseases like fever of different kinds,[2] breathing troubles etc. The Harṣacrita says it was used by the physician to prepare drugs for king Prabhākaravardhana.[3] It is a part of the famous Āyurvedic mixture triphalā. Bāṇabhaṭṭa says Sudṛṣṭi, one of his friend used āmalaka oil in his hair[4] and king Śūdraka also used āmalaka fruits as soap for washing his head.[5] According to Agnipurāṇajuice of dhatrī is sternutatory in all diseases relating to the head.[6]

(b) Aśoka, Karṇapūraka, Saraca asoca (Roxb.), Asoka

During the time of Rājaśrī’s marriage, the tops of the palaces were marked with tender mango and Aśoka leaves, and they (pillars) were made red with the ālaktaka dye placed on them.[7] The ālaktaka has a great medicinal value. The Agnipurāṇa, too , mentions that drinking apala of pulverized punarnabhā or aśoka together with honey, clarified butter and milk, would remove one’s ailment.[8]

(c) Candana, malayaja, Santalum album L., Sandal wood, Chandan

It has great cooling effect. Bāṇabhaṭṭa notes that the attendants of king Prabhākaravardhana smeared his whole body with sandal-paste to relieve his fever, when he had been in his death-bed.[9] After bath, emperor Harṣavardhana’s whole body was besmeared with fragrant sandal paste at the time of his cornation.[10] It was also used as marks on the forehead at that time.[11] The writer mentions that people of the 7th century A.D. used the candana powder to increase their beauty.[12] According to the Agnipurāṇa-candana was used with other plants (mentioned in the Agnipurāṇa) to cure the whiteness in the eyes.’[13]

(d) Tāmbūla, pūga, Areea Catechu Linn., Betel nut, Tamol

In Bāṇabhaṭṭa’s time, the betel nut was used by the dancing girls to decorate their lips.[14] He mentions that king Harṣa’s close lips were made red with betel.[15] It is found in the Agnipurāṇa that, gargling with betel nut was used for the remedy of the defects in the tongue.[16]

(e) Palāśa, Butea monsperma (Linn) Kuntze, flame of the forest, Palash

The Agnipurāṇa says that the oil of palāśa with honey is recommended for longevity[17] and that the piles would go, without any doubt, if the clarified butter boiled with dry ginger, pepper and long pepper mixed with palāśa in water, is used.[18] Again, Bāṇabhaṭṭa mentions that the brahmacārī used the palāśadanda.[19] The word āṣāḍina[20] implies the staffs of aṣāḍa i.e., palāśa (as a sign of a brahmacārī). Āśvālāyana also prescribes the staffs of the palāśa tree for a brāhmaṇa.[21]

(f) Kuśa, Vṛṣī, Poa synosuroides, Grass of lucky augury, kushvan

Kuśa grass is mentioned as vṛṣī in the Harṣacrita.[22] kuśa was used as an artificial chair; sometimes the sages used it as bed in ancient time.[23]

P. V. Kane comments—

“A person in impurity was to sleep on a spare bed of mats, grass etc.”[24]

According to the Amarakoṣa—bratināmāsanaṃ vṛṣī.[25] It means a seat of kuśa grass for ascetics. The Agnipurāṇa mentions that kuśa grass is beneficial in cleaning wounds.[26]

(g) Dūrvā, bāruṇī, sahasravīrya, Cynodon dactyl on Pers., Panicum dactylon, Dog grass, Duvari

The Agnipurāṇa informs about the importance of it. When soaked in ghee, it is beneficial in nasal diseases;[27] and the juice of dūrvā when inhaled is an excellent remedy for the bleeding of the nose.[28] Bāṇabhaṭṭa, too, mentions in his Kādambarī that all sides of the Vindhyāraṇya were full of dūrvā grass,[29] which had fine blades and was used for several sacred purposes.[30] It is described in the Harṣacrita that dūrvā was also used in secret purposes.[31]

(h) Bilva, śrīphala, sadāphala, Aegle marmelos Corr., Wood /golden Apple, Beal

The Agnipurāṇa mentions that it is the best remedy for dysentery and discharge of blood and pain.[32] It also remedies for fever, indigestion, pain of the sides (of the body) and cough.[33] The Bilva tree is sacred to Śiva. At that time, the Bilva leaves were used to worship the lord Śiva.[34] According to the Amarakoṣa—bilve śāṇḍilyaśailūṣau māluraśrīphalābapi.[35]

There was the descriptions of many parks with valuable trees such as—Bīlvavātikā.[36] It is found in the description of Vindhyāraṇya in the Kādambarī that they were surrounded by the Śrīdruma.[37]

(i) Agastya, munidruma, Sesbania grandiflora Pers, Larga flowered, Agati, Bakaphul

The writer informs that forest settlement planted the Agasti tree in their courtyard (āṅgana), and there, tanks were constructed under that plant, in which were thrown cakes (pūpikā) for birds.[38] According to the Āyurveda the flower of the agastya is the best remedies for fever such as malaria, and headache etc.[39]

(j) Agaru, Aquilaria agalocha Roxb., Bark, Heart wood, Sacigach

The writer mentions that people used the bark of Agaru to write the subhāṣita[40] and the oil of Agaru was used as perfume[41] at that time. Again, it mentions that the black aloe (kṛṣṇāgaru)[42] was used as collyrium also.

(k) Karpūra, Cinnamonum camphora, Camphor powder, Karpur

The writer mentions that it is used to have a sense of coldness, when one feels hot.[43] Therefore, description is found to use karpūra when king Prabhākaravardhana was in deep fever.

From the above discussion, it is found that Harṣacarita is very much concerned about the plants and herbs with great medicinal value. This work mentions that herbal plants were used as the remedies of the diseases.

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

Vāmanapurāṇa, 91.51

[3]:

Harṣacarita,V.p.77

[4]:

tailāmalakasṛṇitamauliḥ, Ibid.,III.p.39

[5]:

vāravilāsinīkaramṛditasugandhāmalakopaliptaśiraso rājñaḥ, Kādambarī, p.31

[6]:

The Agnipurāṇa,279.40

[7]:

vinyastālaktakapāṭalāṃśca cūtāśokapallavalāñcitaśikharānudvāhavitardikā-stambhānuttambhayadbhiḥ prārabdhavividhavyāpāram, Harṣacarita,IV.p.69

[8]:

The Agnipurāṇa, 286.15

[9]:

aviratacandancacārparāṇāṃ paricārakaṇām…..dhavalaiḥ karaiḥ….., Ibid.,V.p78

[10]:

…dhavalenācaraṇataścandanena śarīraṃ …, Ibid.,VII.p.108

[11]:

[a].….candanalalātikābhiḥ, Ibid.,IV.p.62 [b] haricandanarasaprakṣālite…..samupaviṣṭam, Ibid.,II.p.32

[12]:

candanadhavalatanulatām, Ibid.,IV. p.72

[13]:

The Agnipurāṇa, 286.15

[14]:

niḥsṛtatāmbula……..vārayoṣiti, Harṣacarita,V.p.77

[15]:

bahalatāmbūlasinduracchuritayā…..uṣṭhamudrayā…, Ibid.,VII.p.111

[16]:

Agnipurāṇa,283.10

[17]:

Ibid.,286.7

[18]:

Ibid.,285.50b-51

[19]:

kuśāntu….. āṣāḍibhiḥ……, Harṣacarita,I.p.4

[20]:

Manusaṃhitā,II.45

[21]:

Āśvālāyanagṛhyasūtra, I.19.13

[22]:

vṛṣīmapahāya sāvitrī samupatrasthau, Harṣacarita,I.p.4

[23]:

paryantasuptasaptarṣikuśaśayanasūcita…, Ibid.,I,p.8

[24]:

Ibid.,p.184

[25]:

Amarakoṣa,II.7.46

[26]:

Ibid.,285.33-34

[27]:

Ibid., 279.39

[28]:

Ibid., 283.6b-7

[29]:

vāruṇīparigatā ca, Kādambarī,p.38

[30]:

Ibid.,p.119

[31]:

hūyamānapṛṣadājyalavaliptapṛacaladūrvāpallavam, Harṣacarita,V.p.76

[32]:

Agnipurāṇa,283.29

[33]:

Ibid.,285.3-4

[34]:

bilvapallavadāmadalodvāhinaḥ, Harṣacarita,III p.54

[35]:

Amarakoṣa,II.4.32

[36]:

Harṣacarita,p.46

[37]:

śrīdrumopaśobhitā, Kādambarī,p.38

[38]:

āṅganāgastistambhatalaviracitapakṣipūpikāvāpikairvikiṇabadarapāṭalapaṭalaiḥ, Harṣacarita,VII.p.124

[39]:

Banowsadhire Sikitsa, p.98

[40]:

agarubalkalakalpitasaṅcayāni ca subhāṣitabhāñji pustakāni, Harṣacarita,VII.p.116

[41]:

kṛṣṇāgurutailasya ca…., Ibid.

[42]:

bhinnāñjanakṛṣṇasya kṛṣṇāguro...., Ibid.,p.117

[43]:

tuṣāraśilāśakalaśiśirasvacchasitasya ca karpūrasya, Ibid.

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